Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has called for more business involvement in efforts to tackle climate change.
Mr Ross argued that business has a “key role” to play in tackling the climate emergency, and he accused other parties of ignoring the sector in their environmental policies.
Announcing a “green growth manifesto”, Mr Ross said the Scottish Conservatives are pledging an investment of £2.5 billion during the next parliament to make homes and businesses more energy efficient.
Speaking in South Queensferry before campaigning was suspended on Friday, Mr Ross told the PA news agency: “We shouldn’t exclude business and I think that’s a mistake the other parties are making… ignoring the involvement of business because that can play a key role in our green recovery, it can tackle the climate emergency, while also providing tens of thousands of jobs here in Scotland, which is exactly what we should be looking to do.
“We’d add in support for property owners to do that because it’s wrong that they should face all the burden of the cost of making their properties more energy efficient, and we also want to see more done to transition the North Sea from oil and gas into more renewable energies.
“We’ve already seen the £16 billion investment with the sector deal between the industry and the UK Government, but there’s more we can do – we can get the Scottish Government more involved in that.
“But crucially today, our plans are also focused on involving business, because the SNP are also discussing their green recovery plans today but they don’t mention business.
“I think it’s absolutely crucial that we do involve business because our recovery of tackling the climate challenge is also one that can provide tens of thousands of green recovery jobs across Scotland.”
Last month, the UK Government announced a deal worth £16 billion to allow oil drillers to keep exploring the North Sea for new reserves if they pass a “climate compatibility” test.
Commenting on the deal, which provides Government funding in exchange for a commitment from the industry to cut emissions by 50% by the end of the decade, Mr Ross said: “It’s absolutely the right approach to take and the right direction of travel.
“That’s why throughout this whole transition deal development we’ve been working with the sector, so it’s not just government saying something and expecting the sector to do it, it’s actually working with the sector more collaboratively, and that’s why I also want to see the Scottish Government coming into those discussions as well.”
Asked about the ethical and environmental issues of allowing further fossil fuel extraction in the midst of a climate emergency, he added: “I think it’s absolutely right that we transition from that to newer, greener forms of energy, and that’s why the industry are so behind this.
“But it’s clearly an industry that is providing tens of thousands of jobs throughout Scotland, particularly in the north east of Scotland; it’s an industry that has suffered during the pandemic in terms of a dip in oil prices et cetera, so we have to continue to support the industry support those jobs, but also to support the transition to more greener forms of energy.”
After environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg confirmed she will not attend the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow because of “extremely inequitable vaccine distribution” which means countries cannot participate on even terms, Mr Ross dismissed calls for the conference to be postponed for another year.
“I think the fact that it’s already been delayed by a year to this year means all the emphasis should be, if possible, holding Cop26 in Glasgow in a physical style of conference,” he said.
“There’s obviously back-up plans to hold it virtually, to potentially delay it again, but I know from speaking to those within Glasgow and those within Government, all the effort is trying to host this conference here in Scotland this year.”